- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 11, 2001

During the Age of Norv, the Redskins were admired in football circles for their sporty offense, but Marty Schottenheimer has traded in the Lamborghini for a Humvee. They're a defensive team first, last and always now, and the play of the unit has helped them claw their way into the playoff hunt.
What's interesting, as you look around the league, is that a lot of other contending clubs are built around their defenses, too. Yes, you've still got the Rams putting big points on the board and the 49ers, Packers, Broncos and Raiders are also thought of as offensive-minded. Increasingly, though, teams are winning by stopping their opponents, not by outscoring them.
The Eagles, the Bears, the Bucs, the Dolphins, the Jets, the Steelers, the Ravens not much firepower there. Indeed, only Philly is averaging as many as 20 points a game, and that's because its 'D' is so good at forcing turnovers and providing field position.
To many, this isn't a particularly pleasing development. More and more, it seems, clubs are playing not to lose rather than to win and the Redskins certainly fall into that category. But it's the way things are in the NFL these days, and it's not likely to change anytime soon. Why? Because most of these teams are coached by former defensive coordinators Dick Jauron in Chicago, Tony Dungy in Tampa, Dave Wannstedt in Miami, Herman Edwards with the Jets, Bill Cowher in Pittsburgh, Schottenheimer here. You think they're suddenly going to start throwing the ball all over the lot?
Once Bill Belichick gets his defense squared away in New England and Jim Haslett does likewise in New Orleans the list of defensive-oriented clubs will grow even longer. And then who knows? we might see the quick kick make a comeback.
It's such a stark contrast to what's happening at the college level. The college game has almost turned into Arena ball. Previously undefeated BYU, you may have noticed, got beat 72-45 the other day. A few weeks earlier, previously undefeated Nebraska got beat 62-36 (and will still get to play for the national "title"). The score of the Big 12 championship game between Colorado and Texas? 39-37.
Offenses are running wild in college football perhaps because there are so many former pro coaches calling the plays (Ralph Friedgen, Gary Crowton, Ron Turner, June Jones, etc.). But in the NFL it's heading in the other direction. Defenses are, if not taking over, at least reasserting themselves. The Ravens showed everybody how it was done last season, shutting down one high-scoring offense after another en route to winning the Super Bowl, and the rest of the league appears to be following their cue. (The irony, of course, being that Brian Billick was the brains behind the Vikings attack that racked up 556 points three years ago.)
I asked Schottenheimer yesterday if it was easier for a defense to play consistently, week in and week out, than it was for an offense. (Theorizing that, in the era of free agency with its frequent roster disruptions that might explain the swing toward defense.) "No, I don't think so," he said. "As long as you're not constantly changing things up trying to do things other people are doing [because] they look good you can be just as consistent on offense.
"Every week your defense has different issues to deal with. The Cardinals, for example, got a lot of their rushing yards against our nickel more than we'd like. On the other hand, we were very effective stopping them on third down."
I'm not sure I agree with him, though. Offense is so much more dependent on timing not to mention the weather. If one little thing is off just a touch such as David Boston getting bumped by LaVar Arrington on that pass route late in the first half Sunday the result is a momentum-turning interception. If one little thing is off just a touch on defense, one of the other 10 guys can often make up for it.
The Redskins defense might spring leaks in different places each week, but its overall performance over the last seven games has been at a pretty high level a playoff level. Bruce Smith and Marco Coleman have been pressuring the passer, Champ Bailey and Fred Smoot (with help from Darrell Green) have been locking onto receivers, and Arrington has been, in the coach's opinion, "amazing."
There is, after all, more than one way to win a football game. In recent years, the Redskins tended to win with offense; now they're winning with defense. And they're not alone.

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